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3Global Climate Justice


Global Climate Justice

The proliferation of cases of climate litigation has raised interest among proponents of climate change and particularly, those in support of the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions. While the obligations of the International Court of Justice regarding its jurisdiction on matters of greenhouse is clear, scholars agree that the issue has invariably taken a political stance. However, it is candid that in spite of being political in nature, there are legal issues attached to the ICJ’s role in controlling the emission of greenhouse gases. Agreeably, the mandate to control emission of greenhouse gases can be regarded as unconfined to one state. In this regard, each country has the responsibility to ensure that they constructively engage in reasonable control of greenhouse emissions, failure to which leads to trans-boundary harm.

Over the last century, there have been heated debates on the answerability of countries on matter of climate change. The rising sea levels have left islands such as the Panama vulnerable to imminent threats of floods. Under customary international law, it is evident that countries are under obligation to respect the environment of other nations. Further, the Article 194 of the UN Convention on sea law dictates that all countries should ensure that they do not engage in activities that threaten to damage or spread pollution to other nations (Bretherton 1998). With such precise laws on the answerability of nations in matters concerning climate litigation, the general debate has revolved around putting these laws in the context of greenhouse gas emissions.

Parks & Roberts (2010) propose that even before countries can engage in heated debates on answerability, they should first engage in negotiations to determine the avenues available to tackle the issue of climate change. In this regard, the authors posit that countries need to come up with more adaptive measures to mitigate the adverse effects of global emissions. Therefore, the idea is that even when the law is clear on the measures that countries that are offended by the actions of others can take, it is imperative that proper mitigation measures be taken. Ideally, this approach would help in avoiding unnecessary litigation among countries that should otherwise be cooperating towards ending the adverse effects of the challenge of climatic change. Consequently, nations should, instead focus on progressive approaches such as the use of infrastructure that is resistant to climate, erecting sea walls, and introducing seed varieties that are resistant to the dangers of climatic change.

Notably, most scholars have sharply criticized the use of the International Court of Justice as an effective approach to settle the challenge of climate change. Instead, as Pickering, Vanderheiden, & Miller (2012) opine, countries should set up country-specific institutions that should oversee that state projects and policies are in accordance with the fundamental precepts of climate conservation. Moreover, the authors agree that it should also be the role of such institutions to engage in negotiations on cost redistribution and climate adaptation in a bid to alleviate chances of strained diplomatic relations in the event that such nations seek litigation from the International Court of Justice. Still, it should be noted that for such agreements to be effective, there is need to set out clear roles that such countries should adhere to. In this regard, international laws should remain binding, but only in the event that such nations fail to honor their part of the bargain on effective mitigation strategies.

Environmentalists have broadly categorized philosophical notions on international justice into the cosmopolitan and the statist beliefs. The latter intimates that countries are the ultimate end to the question of morality when it comes to normative issues on international justice. On the other hand, the former approach argues that such obligation should be approached from a universal perspective whereby national membership should be disregarded (Harris & Symons 2010). These two philosophies point out the contemporary challenge that nations have faced when trying to find a rightful place for international institutions in political and climate discourse. Agreeably, only cosmopolitan ethics provide the justifications for engaging an international approach to the challenge of climate change. Therefore, the evident divide among countries over the most effective approach has been founded on the lack of shared ideals on such philosophies. This has meant that while some countries support the use of international institutions to control other countries’ greenhouse emissions, others have insisted on having approaches specific to the consumption of each state.

Moreover, the question of individual responsibility has equally remained pertinent with regards to gas emission. In this case, the developed countries have been linked with contributing to the greatest emissions of greenhouse gases. Additionally, the effects of such emissions have been shown to be most adverse to the developing nations. Therefore, developing nations have invariably remained adamant to engage in negations on climate change on the premise that they do not participate in the vice. However, this has been counterproductive as such nations have been the best placed to push for more responsibility among the more developed countries. As Harris & Symons (2010) argue, it should be imperative for both developing and developed nations to engage in constructive negotiations where the key agenda should be to set up regulatory duties and to link each country to a specific role to play in a bid to promote multilateral cooperation. However, the continued complacency of developing nations has been a great barrier to the efforts on ensuring that international climate change efforts are not compromised (Newell 2005). As such, even before engaging in efforts to take countries in climate litigations, there should be an escalation in the commitment among developing nations towards promotion of cost effective means of operating within the countries with highest levels of gas emission.

Honkonen (2009) argues the issue of climate change from the perspectives of race and class. In his discourse, he posits that there has admittedly been a high level of hypocrisy in the approach to global issues. To vindicate his point, the author gives the illustration of the wide international condemnation against Zambia for declining to receive donor genetically modified food when its citizens were starving. In fact, the author point out that the Zambian government was threatened to be taken to the International Criminal Court and implicated with crimes against humanity for failing to accept the foods. Yet when the United States found traces of Starlink in the GM foods that it had initially approved, they immediately banned the consumption of such foods. Further, the author notes that similar efforts were not made to remove the same foods that had been sent to countries such as Bolivia. It is such levels of double standards that have proliferated the current stalemate in the discussions on greenhouse emissions. As Honkonen (2009) mentions, the races that are deemed to be more developed have inadvertently segregated themselves in terms of research. They are also notorious for enforcing policies on the lesser developed nations while safeguarding their individual interests. This is mentioned as one of the major contributors to the stalled progress in addressing climate issues.

Moreover, borrowing from Newell’s (2005) arguments, it can also be perceived that international institutions are still largely controlled by the same countries that are the greatest contributors of environmental pollution. Further, the evident double standards among international bodies when dealing with issues such as health should be an indicator that it would be inherently ineffective for nations to make use of the International Court of Justice as an effective means of addressing the global concerns on greenhouse gas emission. Bretherton (1998) supports this view by stating that one of the confounding factors that have made it difficult to achieve the required cooperation among international players has been the wide societal divide between the rich countries and the poor ones. In this regard, Bretherton (1998) posits that the poor countries have a very limited financial capability of even feeding their own people while the rich nations are focused mostly on exploiting the available human and natural resources with little regard to the environmental implications of such actions.

Kavalski (2007) articulates a more profound approach to the issue of international cooperation in dealing with issues of climate change and, in particular, global gas emissions. The author argues that while it clear that seeking redress on climate liability through the ICJ remains a viable option among the developed countries, the same cannot be said of the poor countries. Therefore, the complexity in the whole concept of using the ICJ as an intervention is confounded by a paradox that those with the ability to sue for such damages are unwilling because they are also guilty of the same crimes. Moreover, the countries that are not in a position to sue for such causes are the most affected and are, invariably, innocent of such activities. As such, Kavalski (2007) proposes the complex international relations (CIR) theory as the most viable alternative that countries can adopt to deal with global justice in climate intervention. According to this theory, nations should develop an effective mechanism through which the most developed nations act deliberately in ways that alleviate the vulnerability of the weaker nations. Based on this theory, developed country which are opponents to the ills of climate change should be at the forefront in agitating for the rights of the weaker countries that have no financial capability of engaging countries that emit these gases.

The CIR theory provides essential insights into the importance of collective responsibility in dealing with climate change. Essentially, tis theory recognizes the importance of activism in altering global priorities in key issues. Therefore, the argument is that while it might be inherently difficult for weaker nations to influence the debate on greenhouse gas emission, cooperation with other nations could prove to be more productive in the long-term. Consequently, the focus of international institutions should be reduced to acting as an advisor on the most effective course of action instead of mediating nations that are at the brink of war as a result of disagreements on global climate policies.

Catton (1982) does not offer a very optimistic outlook on the future of the global engagements on matter on greenhouse emissions. However, he is quick to point out that there is still room for countries to avert the effects of greenhouse in the short-run, failure to which could lead to a more irreversible damage to the environment. Still, it remains evidently clear that in spite of such pessimism, the threats posed by climate change are real, and the most efficient approaches should be geared on international cooperation.

Moellendorf (2012) disregards the issue of persecution of the countries that are depicted as the most responsible for the high level of greenhouse emissions. Ideally, most of the countries that have the highest rates of greenhouse emissions should be working on establishing sustainable development. Traditionally, the international community has been overly lenient on the leading emitters of greenhouse gases. Therefore, countries such as the United States and China, despite being the leading contributors to environmental degradation through greenhouse emissions, have faced no litigation. However, through international agreements, it has been possible to contain the extent to which such countries can proliferate such emissions. For instance the signing of the Kyoto protocol aided in setting limits to the levels of carbon industrial effluents that such countries could release to the atmosphere. Moreover, the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 was signed and developed counties pledged to contribute $100 million from the beginning of 2020 (Moellendorf 2012). The funds would be used to fund climate change adaptation among the developing nations.

Conclusively, environmental pollution through greenhouse emissions remains a pertinent challenge of the 21st century. From this essay, it is clear that while the right to distributive justice can be taken against the greatest contributors of this environmental degradation, the long-term goal of sustainable developed would be hindered by the strained diplomatic relations. Therefore, it would be more feasible if the developed nations took the responsibility of ensuring that they substantially reduce greenhouse emission through investing in more environmentally friendly sources of fuel. Moreover, the developed nations have a responsibility of aiding the less developed nation in adapting to climate change, as the former bear the highest responsibility for the current changes in climatic conditions. Ultimately, this paper contends that negotiations and international cooperation should take precedence over prosecutions through the ICJ


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